Heading into the election year, just under four in ten voters approve of President Joe Biden’s job in office. But according to the most vulnerable House Democrats, this widespread voter dissatisfaction isn’t of any concern.
Frontline Democrats we spoke to said they’ve largely lost faith in polling after several big misses in recent years. And they maintain that once Democrats fully sell their accomplishments from the last Congress, Biden’s standing will improve.
But privately, House Democrats are sounding the alarm — in group chats and other media — after a string of polls have shown former President Donald Trump ahead of Biden in 2024.
Several House Democrats told us this month it’s all anyone can talk about. But no one wants to draw the ire of the White House by speaking out publicly.
The razor-thin Republican majority means that Democrats only need to flip a handful of seats to reclaim the House. The party must also be wary of protecting its vulnerable incumbents. That’s a task that may prove increasingly difficult if Biden drags the party down from the top of the ticket.
But the prospect of needing to outrun the national party isn’t anything new for Frontliners like Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.). Cartwright has repeatedly won reelection in a district that voted for Trump twice and says he expects Biden to get more credit for the economy as November approaches.
“What are we, 11 months out from the next election?” Cartwright told us. “I mean, that’s a double eternity in politics.”
Democrats also are quick to point out how House polls last cycle predicted a “red wave” that never came.
“I think polling is increasingly useless,” Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) said, adding he’d welcome Biden to his district. “If we haven’t taken that away from the last few elections, I don’t know how much more we need to see.”
“I haven’t kept up with poll numbers,” Rep. Don Davis (D-N.C.) said. “It’s early anyway.”
And Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio) told us he thinks the polls are more indicative of general frustration, rather than anti-Biden sentiment.
Yet talk to Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Biden’s primary opponent and the only congressional Democrat speaking out against the incumbent. Phillips claims the Frontliners’ public statements are all bluster.
“Everyone’s reading the polls, everybody sees,” Phillips said. “[The Frontliners] won’t say it publicly, most likely, because that’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. But I think they’re all feeling the same thing.”
Phillips has become ostracized inside the House Democratic Caucus ever since launching his quixotic presidential bid. But he claims a number of Democrats have reached out to him to fret about Biden’s standing.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, who once sat at the leadership table with Phillips, said he was confident voters would give Biden credit for achievements like prescription drug reform.
“So many of these things that we have an ability to talk about make a difference in the lives of real voters in our districts,” Aguilar said.
— Max Cohen